You are currently viewing Seize the opportunity
East Park mall.

Seize the opportunity

THE mushrooming of shopping malls across the country is seen by some as a money-spinner for investors, most of whom are foreign-based.
While this may be true, it is also a fact that these malls present an opportunity for locals to also increase their revenue.
It is probably against this background that Vice-President Inonge Wina has directed relevant ministries and agencies to ensure Zambian products are given prominence in supermarkets across the country.
These chain stores should be a ready market for Zambian manufacturers and producers of agro-products as well as other products The more the shopping malls the better for locals.
Some of these supermarkets are already living up to this call to stock more Made-in-Zambia products. There are a lot of products already on the shelves and some of them are competing fairly well with imports for price and quality.
In fact, this should be the ace in pushing for more Zambian products on these shelves – price and quality.
The justifiable argument by some of the supermarkets is that some Zambian suppliers fail to meet set standards. It is contended that contracts are given to Zambian suppliers but some of them fail to sustain the supply.
Others that do keep the supply flowing fail to maintain the quality. This is not good for business and it is understandable why some supermarkets are hesitant to enter into deals with suppliers of unknown ability.
Most, if not all local producers that have been embraced by the supermarkets, are those whose products come out of well-established manufacturing plants. This is well and good, but there is need to extend this offer to the small-scale producers such as those who grow vegetables.
The challenge is, therefore, to these small-scale farmers to strategize on how best to get their produce onto the shelves of these big supermarkets.
One sure way of doing so is working together through cooperatives. Their pooled produce would enhance their chances of meeting the required quantities and supplies all year round.
By putting their heads together, they would also improve their knowledge on how to sustain the desired quality.
It is about time that Zambians took cooperatives seriously, not just as channels through which they would get subsidised farm inputs such as fertiliser and seed.
Cooperatives should be key drivers of Zambia’s economy and this is not only for the agriculture sector but also for other sectors such as manufacturing which are some of the key pillars of the country’s Seventh National Development Plan.
Zambians ought to know that there is cut-throat competition in the economy and nothing will come on a silver platter. They must be aggressive in marketing their products and, as said before, bargain on the strength of quality and quantity.
This competition is not only within the country, but also from across borders to countries within Africa and beyond.
There is no doubt that Zambians have the knowledge and skills on how to make and package goods that can meet international standards. This is evidenced by the many products that are exported and accepted in countries that have stringent requirements on imports.
Therefore, getting more goods on local shelves is not, and should not be, for the mere reason of pleasing local producers. It should be for the reason that the goods are good.
Cooperatives should also strive to grow. From being producers of raw materials, they should strive to add value to their products. For instance, instead of seeing their tomatoes going to waste, they should strive to can the produce to ensure a longer shelf life.
This will not only put more money in their pockets, but will also add to the country’s labour force.
The quest to becoming a prosperous middle-income country by 2030, would be in vain if these sectors do not blend into the rest of the country’s economy.
Fortunately, Zambia has a lot of enthusiastic and capable Zambians to drive this quest. All they need is encouragement. They need to be assured that policy-makers are on their side, as the Vice-President has demonstrated by giving the directive.
Zambians should also support fellow Zambians. Some Zambians have the notion that any foreign product is better than those made locally. This is a shame because it has been proven over and over again that there are Zambian products that are better than imported ones.
Buying local products, for as long as they are good, ensures that the finances remain in the country and this money can be used for recapitalisation.
Let us seize these opportunities and chart our own course to economic prosperity.